I read it when I was but a wee lad. The general summary that I can remember is:

  1. Group of astronauts crash land (I believe they crash...I could be wrong though) on icy world
  2. They somehow end up below the surface into a long abandoned city of some alien race
  3. They begin to be followed by strange black glob-like creatures with green (maybe?) eyes. They follow but do not harm them.
  4. At some point they enter a structure and encounter a hologram of a different alien that tells them some history about a war with other aliens and basically having to sacrifice themselves to prevent the universe from being overrun or something along those lines.
  5. The explorers end up leaving the city and returning to their ship but there is a plot twist: they have a toast to the extinct race and say something along the lines of "to earth"...and it is revealed that the main characters are not humans but in fact have beaks and talons.

Anyway, as stated before I read this long ago and it was one of my favorite science fiction stories. I've been googling the little snippets that I remember for years but to no avail. Halp?

  • 2
    When were you "a wee lad"? Do you have any recollections of the cover of the book or any of the other stories or authors included? Was it in English or seem to be translated?
    – phantom42
    Feb 12, 2014 at 22:33
  • 1
    This would have been the early/mid 90's. The book had a pretty generic title..."SCIENCE FICTION STORIES" or something like that. It had a bunch of space ships on the cover - also English. Another interesting story from it that I remember was about a group of colonists who were investigating a planet where weird things kept happening. Eventually they found out the aliens were invisible...I really wish I could remember more but all I can remember is snapshots here and there and that I was very fond of the stories in this book.
    – Rafael
    Feb 12, 2014 at 22:50
  • 1
    Does this answer your question? Story about protagonist finding a world that has died with a museum
    – Kitsune
    Dec 22, 2020 at 1:52

1 Answer 1


The Random House Book of Science Fiction Stories has your generic title ("SCIENCE FICTION STORIES" in big letters, "The Random House Book of" in small letters), it has a bunch of spaceships (well three of them) on the cover, and it was published in June 1997, about the very end of the mid 90s. It was published a year earlier in the UK, but with a different title (Space Stories) and a different cover (no spaceships). It seems to contain one of the two stories you described. I'm only mentioning this book on the off chance that you may be mixing up one of the stories with another story you read somewhere else.

The story about people from Earth running up against invisible aliens on a foreign planet (mentioned in your comment) seems to be here: "Scrutiny" by William F. Temple. The spacefarers from Earth are not colonists, they're explorers searching for intelligent alien life. Otherwise the story seems to fit:

While speaking, he was gazing out through a port—and the sudden and inexplicable happened: the outer door of the Module's airlock swung open. Yet there was nobody outside—nor inside—the airlock.

Bruce had also seen it. "That just can't happen," he said, also on the radio set.

"What can't? What's going on there?" the Captain called.

It was Leo who answered. "Maybe someone has come to meet us. If so, he's an invisible man. Could be all the townsfolk are invisible."

Next moment, the inner door of the airlock fell inward on them. They skipped back and it clanged on the floor. The pins of its hinges, which had somehow pulled out, rattled beside it. The denser air in the cabin swooshed out into the planetary atmosphere. Only their suits saved them from near-suffocation at best, death at worst.

[. . .]

The holding screws in the panel of the manual guidance console were spinning anticlockwise. They came clean out and floated loosely, as though weightless. Then the panel itself lifted away, trailing wires and transistors, which began to separate and become detached. It was as though a gang of expert but invisible troubleshooters had set to work to dismantle the apparatus. The thin atmosphere became thick with floating components, as though the Module were in a state of free fall. But it was still resting on the sandy soil and the two men were still captives of gravity.

But the Module seemed to be starting, piecemeal, an independent struggle against that gravity.

Floor bolts began popping like champagne corks. One section of the floor flapped open like a trapdoor.

Bruce exclaimed: "My God, they are invisible! They're wrecking us. Let's get out—quick."

You might take a look at the table of contents to see if any of the other titles ring any bells.

Update. The original poster, Rafael, has found that the story described in the original question is "The Dead Planet" by Edmond Hamilton (first published in Startling Stories, Spring 1946, available at the Internet Archive), also in the The Random House Book of Science Fiction Stories among other places, and online at Google Docs. Here is the ending of Hamilton's story:

We looked at each other, we three tall bird-men of Rigel, as Dril handed us the glasses of pink sanqua. On Tharn's beaked face, in his green eyes, was an expression that told me we were all thinking of the same thing.

He raised the glass that he held in his talons.

"To that great dead race to whom our galaxy owes all," he said. "We will drink to their world by their own name for it. We will drink to Earth."


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